It’s Friday night. Led Zeppelin radio is playing through my nifty Beats Pill+. My boyfriend has asked me out on a private dinner date where he is cooking me a short rib dinner, and I don’t have to help AT ALL. Perfection. Until we do that annoying things couples do. We pick a fight over a pan.
Him: “Is this pan oven proof?”
Me: I think so. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never actually put it in the oven, but…
Him: So. NO.
Me: STOP YELLING AT ME!!!!
OK. There might have been a little more to it than that. But you know how these things go. Maybe I called him an impatient jerk. Maybe he said I was acting crazy. And quite possibly I then stomped out of the room. Either way, there was intense annoyance over a PAN.
Dynamics of a relationship are always interesting to me. You’re usually not arguing over the thing you’re actually arguing over. And we all develop this little thing called selective hearing. One person says, “Hey, can you turn that music down?” And the other person comes back with, “Stop controlling my life!!!!!” And while this seems like an exaggeration, I guarantee this has happened somewhere. Sadly, I think most relationship fights start over assumptions. Most fights with friends also start over assumptions. Though I’m waaaay less likely to take it personally when my friend teases me about my sensitivity. If my boyfriend does, there is a full on cry fest over our sushi diner. (I’m chagrined to admit this may have actually happened.)
So how do we navigate relationships? There is an amazing little book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. This is pretty much entry level reading for those on the path to enlightenment. And the rules are very simple. In fact, I first read this book when I was 23. However, ten (ish) years later, I’m still not completely getting it. So let’s take another look for the sake of all relationships past, present, and future.
AGREEMENT #1: BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD
This means say what you mean, do what you say. So gentleman, if you say you’re going to pick us up at 7:15, that does not mean 7:30, 8:45, or NEVER. Ladies, that means when your guy asks you if you’re OK, and you say, “I’m fine,” then you sure as hell better be fine. Not picking a fight ten minutes later over the reasons he should have figured out what he did wrong.
AGREEMENT #2: DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY
Wow. Right? Tricky for me, too. So when someone doesn’t ask you out on a second date, you know it isn’t about you. It’s about them. Their beliefs. Their preferences are just different than yours, but that doesn’t make you BAD. How many times have we said, “He’s so nice. I WISH I felt an attraction.” It all comes down to whichever dots connect in that crazy head of yours. So, knowing this, you start to get so strong in your own self image that words, whether good or bad, do not affect you.
AGREEMENT #3: DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
I cannot begin to tell you’ve how many times a day I break this one. I assume my boyfriend is mad at me because he smiled at me sideways or text OK without the 😘. But this has got to stop if there is any hope for relationships. Just because someone asks for an alone night DOES NOT mean they have lost interest and you’re so ugly that you’ll probably never have sex again. Or that they’re a narcissistic asshole. Who is also cheating on you. (Fill in your go to du jour.)
AGREEMENT #4: ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST
Because we can’t be perfect and that’s OK. Just try, try again. But try to be conscious of each decision instead of stumbling blindly in the dark. (You could break a toe or step on a cat that way.)
I think these four agreements are a great reminder. But I want to add one more piece of insight. STOP THE BLAME. We all, as a society, love to blame the other person. He’s an insensitive asshole. She’s crazy and controlling. But what if we shifted perspective? Have you ever noticed that you keep repeating the same relationship pattern over and over again? Different guy/girl, same problems? Have you ever discussed a friend and said, “It’s so hard to talk to them because they can’t SEE what their doing?” Well, at what point do you stop and think maybe that person is YOU? Or, at the very least, that you equally contribute to the problem. It wasn’t until I started to really look at what I was doing myself that I was able to make shifts in my own relationships. I know we all think we’re perfect, but come on, is it even possible that things are NEVER our fault?
Lastly, to me, time and COMITTMENT to growth are most important. My boyfriend and I have been together over 3 years (and dated for a long time before that). We have come so far. Three years ago we would not have been able to easily skirt around the pan catastrophe. But last night I gave him space (previously I’ve liked to poke the bear) and he came around on his own and met me half way. But it wasn’t until we BOTH made adjustments that it started to work. Sometimes I think as females we think of the man as our knight in shining armor. He’s not supposed to have any feelings, he’s just supposed to take care of OURS. And when he doesn’t, let’s find a better one! And same goes for men the other way around. This is definitely a view I held in my 20s. And definitely a view that has not served me. I think we all, both male and female, need to work on facing our issues instead of just trading in for a better model. Hell, we might even get the divorce rate down to only 40%.
Side note. I’m sure my friends reading this are like, “well what about the time you told me he did XYZ?” Well, that’s a whole other issue. A wise friend recently told me that if all we do is complain about our significant others than of course none of our friends like him. Maybe it’s better to keep some things private. Or maybe, in between tirades, tell everyone about something GOOD about your relationship. So here’s mine:
Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” is now playing through the Beats Pill+. The kitchen smells AMAZING. I’m in my favorite chair starting this blog and my boyfriend is cooking in the kitchen. We smile at each other across the room and he says, “You know what? I think we’re going to be OK.” I think so, too.
And then he served me this.
Can your boyfriend do that?
So for all the times I’ve complained, here it is simply. I wouldn’t have him any other way.
And so it is.